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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm going to Henry Coe on April 23 for the annual backcountry weekend. Along with my entrance ticket I received two warning notices. The first says, "NEW THIS YEAR: The Alquist Trail is CLOSED to bicycles." The second says it has been "CLOSED to bikes by law."

So I wrote the park staff, as follows:

Mr. Barry Breckling
Ranger
Henry Coe State Park
9000 E. Dunne Ave.
Morgan Hill, Calif. 95037

Dear Barry:

I learned yesterday that I succeeded in gaining access to Henry Coe State Park via the Bell Station entrance on April 23 for the backcountry weekend. Two friends and I are looking forward to mountain biking on the eastern side.

In that regard, however, I was very disappointed to be informed of a new regulation closing the Alquist Trail to mountain biking. That is among the best trails at Henry Coe, and I have greatly enjoyed riding it in past visits. I tried to call you about this to get background information, but haven't been able to reach you.

The no-bikes notice says that the trail is closed by law. I am a lawyer and did some research on it. I don't mean to become too technical, but the law provides only that "within any wilderness area" "there shall be no . . . other form of mechanical transport." (Pub. Resources Code, § 5093.36, subd. (b).) I enclose a copy of the statute with relevant provisions highlighted. But Alquist Trail, according to the most recent Pine Ridge Association map, is not "within" the Orestimba Wilderness; it borders it, and does even that much only for part of its length.

To be thorough, I checked the California Administrative Code to see if there are any further restrictions pertaining to bicycle use in or near California wilderness areas, but did not discover any. Accordingly, as I read California law, Alquist Trail should be open to bicycle use.

Two other comments:

First, even if part of Alquist Trail does lie inside the Orestimba Wilderness, the law barring "mechanical transport" from wilderness areas does not, in my view, prohibit visits by bicycle, assuming that it is modeled on federal law. It appears to be so modeled. The language of subdivision (b) of Public Resources Code section 5093.36 borrows from the federal Wilderness Act of 1964, and specifically title 16 of the United States Code, section 1133, subdivision (c). I recently published an article in the Penn State Environmental Law Review that explains that Congress did not intend, in enacting the Wilderness Act, to keep human-powered transport out of wilderness areas. In fact, in 1980 Congress created a wilderness in Montana and authorized bicycles to visit it, which logically it ought not to have done if it meant for the 1964 Wilderness Act to ban them. Assuming that the California Legislature meant to follow the 1964 Wilderness Act, bicycles should be allowed on all trails in the Orestimba Wilderness, contrary to current rules.

Second, fairness suggests that if bicycles are to be banned from the Alquist Trail and elsewhere in the wilderness, no motor vehicles of any kind, including official park vehicles, should be allowed in the wilderness part of the park. That is the rule in federal wilderness areas. Federal personnel are not permitted to use even chainsaws in their wilderness areas, much less operate motor vehicles in them. I'm not suggesting that the staff at Henry Coe restrict itself in this manner. I merely wish to point out that an application of wilderness rules so strict as to preclude bicycle use of Alquist Trail would seem, in fairness, to require strict application of that part of Public Resources Code section 5093.36, subdivision (b), that prohibits, without providing an exception for official vehicles, any "use of motor vehicles [or] motorized equipment," except, of course, "as necessary in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the wilderness area" or as authorized by subdivision (c).

I'm sorry this letter is so long. I urge you to reconsider the closure of Alquist Trail to cyclists. I invite you to read the enclosed Public Resources Code section and the law review article I wrote on mountain biking in federal wilderness. Please e-mail or write me if you have any comments, or call me at [numbers]. And thanks very much for putting in all of the work to make the backcountry weekend possible.
 

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imtnbke said:
First, even if part of Alquist Trail does lie inside the Orestimba Wilderness, the law barring "mechanical transport" from wilderness areas does not, in my view, prohibit visits by bicycle, assuming that it is modeled on federal law. It appears to be so modeled. The language of subdivision (b) of Public Resources Code section 5093.36 borrows from the federal Wilderness Act of 1964, and specifically title 16 of the United States Code, section 1133, subdivision (c). I recently published an article in the Penn State Environmental Law Review that explains that Congress did not intend, in enacting the Wilderness Act, to keep human-powered transport out of wilderness areas. In fact, in 1980 Congress created a wilderness in Montana and authorized bicycles to visit it, which logically it ought not to have done if it meant for the 1964 Wilderness Act to ban them. Assuming that the California Legislature meant to follow the 1964 Wilderness Act, bicycles should be allowed on all trails in the Orestimba Wilderness, contrary to current rules.
Best of luck to you. It's you vs the sierra club. Go get 'em.

imtnbke said:
Second, fairness suggests that if bicycles are to be banned from the Alquist Trail and elsewhere in the wilderness, no motor vehicles of any kind, including official park vehicles, should be allowed in the wilderness part of the park. That is the rule in federal wilderness areas. Federal personnel are not permitted to use even chainsaws in their wilderness areas, much less operate motor vehicles in them.
They operate the wilderness in this way already. The road that bisects the wilderness is not considered part of it, and vehicles and bicycles are allowed on it. In addition to chainsaws being banned, fire crews are limited to hand tools while fighting blazes in wilderness areas. No dozers, pumped water or air drops.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Fast Eddy said:
They operate the wilderness in this way already. The road that bisects the wilderness is not considered part of it, and vehicles and bicycles are allowed on it. In addition to chainsaws being banned, fire crews are limited to hand tools while fighting blazes in wilderness areas. No dozers, pumped water or air drops.
Thanks very much for the encouraging words. Unfortunately, there's more bad news! The bisecting road you're referring to is Red Creek Road. I, too, have always understood it to be open to mountain bikes. But the permit came with notice that "the Red Creek Road" is also "CLOSED to bikes by law." So is Rooster Comb Trail and a trail called Lion Canyon Trail, which I can't find on the map.

Maybe if enough people call the park staff at (408) 779-2728 to complain it'll bring about a reversal of these new rules.
 

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Fast Eddy said:
Best of luck to you. It's you vs the sierra club. Go get 'em.

They operate the wilderness in this way already. The road that bisects the wilderness is not considered part of it, and vehicles and bicycles are allowed on it. In addition to chainsaws being banned, fire crews are limited to hand tools while fighting blazes in wilderness areas. No dozers, pumped water or air drops.
That gotta be a joke!! Is the law implying that the sanctity of the wilderness designation is worth more than the life of firefighters? Man, this is a Bizarro world after all.
 

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imtnbke said:
Thanks very much for the encouraging words. Unfortunately, there's more bad news! The bisecting road you're referring to is Red Creek Road. I, too, have always understood it to be open to mountain bikes. But the permit came with notice that "the Red Creek Road" is also "CLOSED to bikes by law." So is Rooster Comb Trail and a trail called Lion Canyon Trail, which I can't find on the map.

Maybe if enough people call the park staff at (408) 779-2728 to complain it'll bring about a reversal of these new rules.
This is bad news indeed. I wonder if they are still selling maps at the Park HQ that specifically say that Red Creek is open to bikes? It would be difficult for them to claim you weren't legal if the official State Park map says you are. I will stop into the office next time I am down there to complain about all this.

I have always interpreted the map as reading that Rooster Coomb was off limits...that was always a little bit too far for day trips anyway.

This seems like a perfect issue for IMBA to take up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
fourarm said:
This is bad news indeed. I wonder if they are still selling maps at the Park HQ that specifically say that Red Creek is open to bikes? It would be difficult for them to claim you weren't legal if the official State Park map says you are. I will stop into the office next time I am down there to complain about all this.

I have always interpreted the map as reading that Rooster Coomb was off limits...that was always a little bit too far for day trips anyway.

This seems like a perfect issue for IMBA to take up.
Thanks in advance for following up with the park staff. I just checked the 2002 edition of the park map, which I think is the latest, and it says bikes can go on Red Lake Road.

Trails in the Orestimba Wilderness that have been too far away to ride to in the past are going to be more accessible beginning this summer. Henry Coe is opening the Kaiser-Aetna Road as far as Dowdy Ranch. You'll be able to drive up to a nice picnic area at the ranch site. There'll even be showers there, though no camping. The next issue of the NorCAMBA newsletter will have an article on this.

This makes me wonder: could the park have decided to close Alquist Trail and Red Lake Road because they think more of us will soon be able to reach them?
 

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imtnbke said:
Thanks very much for the encouraging words. Unfortunately, there's more bad news! The bisecting road you're referring to is Red Creek Road. I, too, have always understood it to be open to mountain bikes. But the permit came with notice that "the Red Creek Road" is also "CLOSED to bikes by law."
I was planning on riding through the wilderness earlier this year on Red Creek Road, and called HQ to get some info on trail conditions. I was very upset when they told me it was now closed to mtn bikes. When I asked why, they said something about how it was hard to patrol; it's so remote they have trouble getting their trucks out there. This explanation didn't fly with me, since a lot of the trails that are open to bikes don't look like they can be/are patrolled anyway, since they're either too narrow for their trucks or so overgrown that it looks like no one has come along in quite a while.

I wonder what is really going on. They close off trails formerly open to bikes, that I've never heard of incidents with, there is very little public notice (the Coe web site still says Red Creek is open to bikes). This seems fishy to me.

On a more practical note, what is the penalty for getting caught mountain biking in a wilder ness area? I almost never poach, but this pisses me off to the point where I'm tempted.

I wonder, would a disabled person be allowed to use an off-road wheel chair (or other mechanical device) in the wilderness? Would the laws protecting disabled people win a fight against the wilderness laws?
 

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Ah Geeez

I had to wait to get home to look at my maps to fully understand the closed trails.
:( < Cry > :mad:

Just when I was looking forward to a loop throught the Orestimba Wilderness on the Backcountry Weekend!!! And the wilderness will no longer be quite so wild. It makes me so mad I'm going to... I'm going to.. I'm going to.. .....
1. Continue to enjoy the thousands of acres and zillions of miles of open trails and roads not affected.
2. Start finding new routes from the new entrance. OK, maybe one good thing. :)
3. Help you guys write letters and petition to get the other stuff open.

I was thinking of a loop out Orestimaba Rd. and through the wilderness to the north or north east via Red Creek or Rooster Comb. But both those routes are closed now. But maybe I can go out Orestimba Rd. and instead go south in a little shorter loop via Long Ridge Rd. and Jack Rabbit Lake. I may take a loop up around the top of Mississipi on the way in, but the obvious way to get to the Orestimba Corral camp site is, well, the closed Alquist Trail. :( Ah, Geeze.

Plim, you got any plans yet on how to get in and out (that aren't secret and you're willing to share)?
 

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zorg said:
That gotta be a joke!! Is the law implying that the sanctity of the wilderness designation is worth more than the life of firefighters? Man, this is a Bizarro world after all.
I just spent the week training with CDF cutting fire lines with a mcleod tool and pulaski. NOT FUN. Dozers and air drops are as essential as my fireshelter to my saftey at times... That law blows in my opinion.
 

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semi-off topic

Don't know about the state wilderness law, but the fed one results in some big absurdities. I once hiked a trail in a national forest area where a 4 ft. diameter tree had fallen across the trail. You could see that the rangers had cut through it with an AXE. How long did it take to do that as opposed to chainsawing through it? Think of the lost hours that could have been used for other trail maintenance or whatever.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
george_da_trog said:
So on April 23 you can drive the 6 miles in at bell station instead of riding that damn road?

george
Only if you signed up long ago for the Coe Backcountry Weekend and paid $20-40 for the privilege. It's sold out, unfortunately.
 

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george_da_trog said:
So on April 23 you can drive the 6 miles in at bell station instead of riding that damn road?
Two things going on.

Backcountry weekend is April 23. Fast Eddy is offering to take camping gear in so if you want to camp overnight, you can ride in and meet him at their Boy Scout camp site at Orestimba Corral (at the end of the now-closed Alquist trail). See this thread. So far, it appears only myself and maybe Plim have taken FE on this offer.
But from what imtnbke mentioned, I gather even on that weekend, you'd still need to drive from the standard entrances if you don't have a weekend pass, done from a lottery long ago. Other than for the camping, that's not a good weekend to go out as I hear there's a lot of traffic that weekend (Plim told me there was a line of bikers waiting to go down Alquist last year!!!), but I'll do it anyway, just to scout for future expeditions.

In post #6, imtnbke mentioned that 6 miles of road you ask about will be opened up (permanently?) beginning in the summer. (When??) We'll have to get the NorCAMBA newsletter to read more, but it would be nice to find out more now. (hint, hint...)
 

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Soon though

george_da_trog said:
So on April 23 you can drive the 6 miles in at bell station instead of riding that damn road?
Read his post above Re Dowdy Ranch. Soon they'll open that gate and have parking way up in there. I can't find any info on when though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Fast Eddy said:
Read his post above Re Dowdy Ranch. Soon they'll open that gate and have parking way up in there. I can't find any info on when though.
I'm glad to provide an answer, but it's pretty useless. The park ranger told me that he doesn't know the exact date. It's supposed to be sometime this summer, but the project has already incurred delays.

In any event, who wants to ride Henry Coe in July? Whenever the Bell Station entrance is opened to Dowdy Ranch, I probably won't be taking advantage of it until September or so. Unless, of course, the summer is unusually cool.
 

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It was very ridable much of last summer. And if you have lights, you can ride no matter how hot it was during the day. I love to do big epic rides starting at 4pm and finishing up at 10 or later.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I talked to the supervisor and found out a lot

The Henry Coe State Park supervisor called me today and we talked for about 20 minutes. Here's the scoop on trail access, the Dowdy Ranch opening, and so on . . . .

The reason Red Creek Road and Alquist Trail are now closed is because the approximately 20-year-old Henry Coe general plan doesn't allow any mountain biking in the Orestimba Wilderness, with no exceptions. A superintendent who's no longer at Henry Coe decided some years ago that mountain bikers could use Red Creek Road, but that has been countermanded by State Parks brass. A new map is being drawn and it will not contain the text currently on the 2002 map saying it's OK to ride Red Creek Road. That language on the 2002 map ran contrary to policy and should not have been there.

We talked about the legal basis for keeping bikes out of any California state wilderness. The supervisor said he had no power to make any change so fundamental as to allow bikes into the Orestimba Wilderness at Henry Coe. He wishes he did have some say in it, because he's an mountain biker himself and thinks bikes can help keep underused trails from disappearing through lack of use. He said we should bring up the wilderness access issue when the next Henry Coe general plan is written, because it's the old plan that is currently requiring the park staff to keep mountain biking out. Right now Henry Coe is the number two priority in the Monterey District of state parks for rewriting its general plan. He hopes it can be done in the next two to five years. (That's fast for a general plan, I know from experience with the East Bay Regional Park District.) When the process starts, there will be public hearings and we should show up and make our concerns known. (I'll try to get myself put on a list of people to be notified when the process starts, but at this point I have no idea how to do it. Maybe ROMP monitors these things.)

On another topic, the supervisor said that because of staffing issues the Dowdy Ranch staging area may not open until the summer of 2006. Or it could be as early as this summer. But he can't predict right now right now when it's likely to. (Thanks, Fast Eddy, for mentioning night riding on hot summer days. I hadn't thought of that.)

Another thing I learned is that the Backcountry Weekend is controversial because of the number of vehicles it draws in each April and it could be discontinued at any time. Right now the authorization for it is given only a year at a time. So there'll be a Backcountry Weekend this year, but no guarantee of one in 2006 or later. As soon as we can drive as far as Dowdy Ranch, however, that'll be good enough for me.
 

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imtnbke said:
"...the old plan that is currently requiring the park staff to keep mountain biking out" (of the wilderness)

"because of staffing issues the Dowdy Ranch staging area may not open until the summer of 2006
Hmmm. Seems to me they may not have enough staff to keep someone out of there who wants to ride it. It's your land. Ride it if you want. If you get caught, take the (bogus?) rule to the Supreme Court.

"There is only one sovereign remedy, namely, non-violent non-cooperation"
- Mohandas Ghandi

imtnbke said:
I'll try to get myself put on a list of people to be notified when the process starts, but at this point I have no idea how to do it. Maybe ROMP monitors these things.)
Paul Nam (email, CoeCore website) is on the Coe trail committee, and is very active both there and in ROMP. Is he perhaps the ROMP president also?
 

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and.....

I know a co-worker that is active in the Pineridge Association. She has been telling me of this plan (opening the road from Bell Station to Dowdy Ranch, and installing a "HQ South" so to speak) for the past 2 or 3 years actually. She told me last fall, that it was supposed to happen this coming summer/fall. However, she believes the current budget constraints of the State government will delay that plan further, possibly another year or more.

She has also mentioned another interesting side note from the development of Bell Station - the Back Country Weekend will be "no longer" once Bell Station is opened. Apparently the Park has been under mucho pressure to cease and desist for quite some time now (from whom I can only surmise some enviro-nazi group), and opening the Bell Station entrance is their plan to keep the remote eastern half of the park accessible...the place is just friggin' waaaaay in there, and too tough to day trip for most people (present mtb psychos excluded of course ;) ).

Edit..... :rolleyes: Guess I should've read ALL the posts before jumping in....DOH. Given the details in the post above from the phone convo with Mr. Ranger though...sounds like my Co-Worker has the scoop down pretty good.....
 
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